All the talk of Rihanna’s controversial “Man Down” video reminds me so much of one of my favorite performances by Janet Jackson. Back in 1998 the singer was invited to perform her single “Go Deep” at the VH1 Fashion Awards. However, Janet, wanting to tackle a more personal single on her “Velvet Rope” album, chose to instead perform “What About,” a song about domestic abuse.
Janet’s performance that evening turned out to be one of her most legendary, not only because of the topic matter, but because Janet spends over half of the performance on her knees and yet still owns the stage like the ICON she is.
Check out the performance below and note the response of the crowd. The show’s producer would later explain in a documentary about the show how she didn’t want Janet to perform the song fearing it would be a downer for such a lighthearted event. She later conceded that Janet’s performance was one of the most spectacular given at any VH1 event and garnered more positive feedback than any other show or performance ever aired on the channel.